Olympia Scandal for Darragh

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The Independent Online
Paul Darragh's fortunes, which revived when he began riding horses owned by King Hussein of Jordan's daughter, hit another high note yesterday when he won the Christmas Stocking Stakes during the opening session of the Olympia Show Jumping Championships.

The Irishman was riding Scandal, an eight-year-old Australian-bred mare bought by Princess Haya in January. "She likes the name, she thought every princess should have a Scandal," Darragh said.

The mare (who is like "a little rubber ball" according to Darragh) may not be the most likely of Princess Haya's horses to fulfil her dream of competing in the Sydney Olympics. Scandal nevertheless put up a great performance yesterday when Darragh defeated Michael Whitaker on Virtual Village Ashley by 1.82sec. Germany's world champion, Franke Sloothaak, filled third place on San Patrignano Weihaiwej.

Yesterday's contest earned qualification points for last night's Christmas Masters, which proved an excellent ploy as it meant that riders were trying instead of setting out for a quiet school.

Darragh, who only gained a place here after winning the Volvo World Cup qualifier at Seville on Cera 11 days ago, was certainly ready to use Scandal's turn of foot with telling effect. The mare was raced until the age of five - and was a winner on the flat - but that career ended when she refused to enter the starting stalls.

The three-day event rider Pippa Funnell teamed up with William, her show- jumping husband, to win the inaugural Petplan Family Pairs Relay. They might have been beaten by John Whitaker's teenagers, Louise and Robert, but they incurred an eight second penalty for two fences down which left them in third place. Though Pippa Funnell has been a "rosette girl" at Olympia for about eight years, this was the first time that she has competed at the show. "It was nearly as frightening as Badminton," she said. "I was terrified of letting the side down."

She was nevertheless clear on The Tourmaline Rose - as was William on Comex - to give the couple a polished victory.

OLYMPIA SHOW JUMPING CHAMPIONSHIPS: Christmas Candle Stakes: 1 Scandal XX (P Darragh, Irl) clear, 52.94; 2 Virtual Village Ashley (M Whitaker, GB) clear, 54.76; 3 San Patrignano Weihaiej (F Sloothaak, Ger) clear, 55.98. Petplan Family Pairs Relay: 1 The Tourmaline Rose (P Funnell) and Comex (W Funnell) 66.26secs; 2 Arron (A Bradley) and Gordons Twist (M Jones) 69.93; 3 Cowboy Magic Deep Heat (L Whitaker) and Silver Cinders (R Whitaker) 70.83.

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